The Railways will continue to provide states “as many (trains) as they want,” to transport passengers returning home amid the lockdown but over 250 trains have been “wasted” because states that requested for them could not bring in passengers, Union Railway Minister Piyush Goyal told The Indian Express.
“Sad part is after notifying trains, more than 250 trains they could not use… Maharashtra…it alone could not use more than100 trains as they could not bring passengers. Still, we never complained,” Goyal said in an interview Sunday (Full interview to be published tomorrow).
“We have never refused a single train to any state. And as many as they want, we will continue to provide them (trains),” he said.
“We readied 145 trains but state (Maharashtra) could not use it. Look at the wastage. Those trains could have been used by migrants elsewhere. Once they brought 20,000 people to Bandra. We said don’t worry, we will put (a) train in Bandra and will move everybody. No passenger came as per the list. And UP and Bihar were quite unhappy,” he said.
Goyal said that most Shramik Specials reached their destinations before time or on time for 19 consecutive days after starting on May 1 before a surge in demand created congestion on the routes.
An analysis of records from several sources by The Indian Express Sunday showed that of the 3,740 Shramik trains that ran since May 1, about 40 per cent were recorded as late. The average delay worked out to about eight hours.
“Migrants would come to the station and could not be transported because receiving states would not allow. How I used to get calls from different states that three to four states in eastern India were not accepting migrants like UP or Bihar was,” he said.
“When some states did not show (willingness) we were forced to remove consent,” Goyal said, adding that “the combination of removing consent and adding stoppages (to the Shramik trains) between May 20 and May 20” added congestion in the routes. An average of 256 trains ran every day during this period, he said.
Goyal said that the decision to start the Shramik Specials was taken when it was noticed that stranded migrants were not willing to stay in camps.
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“And when we saw that migrants were not willing to stay in the camps — they should have because containment and lockdown is about staying where you are — we realized that people were moving out of the camps and were facing inconvenience. So on the first day (of May) we started the Shramik Specials,” he said
He said that all trains were going to UP, Bihar and east Indian states — in a direction which also saw the most number of freight trains carrying essentials like foodgrains, coal and fertiliser. This created capacity constraints.
“Freight trains plus this (Shramik trains), we are handling them very well. Then the destination states started demanding more stoppages as they didn’t have the capacity to handle all trains at one stop. Sending states could not get passengers at one station,” Goyal said explaining the route congestion that ensued post May 19.
“When congestion on these routes became too much Railways diverted only 71 trains out of the 4040 trains.. . I monitor them thrice a day,” he said.
He also said that that Railways has served 1.19 crore meals on board the Shramik Specials whereas states have served 54 lakh meals.
“The fares are recovering less than 15 per cent of the cost. But it is not about that. Can you imagine what would have happened if it was announced that ‘free trains’ were going to start from tomorrow? Everybody would have come to get on board those trains. Would anyone have been able to manage the situation?” Goyal said. “Even then, Railways has not taken money from a single passenger.”
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